Three Cheers for Chromebooks: Laptops for the Rest of Us

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If less is more, then Chromebooks have it all. These stripped-down computers aren't conventional laptops at all, instead relying on Google's Chrome browser and a WiFi connection to accomplish nearly everything that a Mac or PC laptop might do, though those computers use much more expensive hardware to do it.

The Chrome Web browser can run a variety of software on its own, but an ecosystem of Chrome plug-ins adds a delightful layer of extended capabilities. You can't really install software on it per se, but it remains an Internet-connected, do-everything machine that might bring some real value to your work and entertainment. Here's a sampling of some of the best Chromebooks you can buy today.

Toshiba Chromebook 2
This is a laptop with an 11-hour battery that costs less than $300. For a certain class of computer user, this is a tough device to beat. It runs with 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage, and it travels with you anywhere. [$269; amazon.com]

Asus Chromebook Flip
What's not to love about a 360-degree rotating touchscreen? This moveable display is certainly more robust than others on this list; the computer even folds into an ersatz tablet. As such, its form factor is perhaps an unusual size. Beware the occasional reports of the cramped keyboard, though this can depend entirely on one's hands and typing style. [$248; amazon.com]

Lenovo 100s
Enterprise warriors ought to take note that purchase of this sub-$200 Chromebook comes with a free year of Microsoft Office 365. The computer weighs a mere 2.2 pounds and implements a 1366×768 HD display for all your video content. [$164; amazon.com]

Acer Chromebook 15
This 15-inch computer comes with a battery that lasts 9 hours per charge and includes 32 GB of solid-state onboard storage that can be expanded up to 128 GB through its integrated card reader. It remains a popular and worthwhile choice among Chromebooks for people who want a larger screen. [$300; amazon.com]

Dell Chromebook 11
For those who want something as portable as can be, pay attention here. The Dell Chromebook 11 is nothing terribly remarkable under the hood — an Intel processor with the option between 2 and 4 GB of RAM — but it's a perfectly worthy entry from Dell in the Chromebook category. [$238; amazon.com]

Google Chromebook Pixel
Something of the sports car of Chromebooks, Google's Pixel pivots much more toward feeling like a full-blown laptop computer. It includes a sleek aluminum chassis like a MacBook and weighs in at a mere 3.3 pounds. The 12.85-inch touchscreen packs pixels in at a dense 2560×1700 resolution. It's a standout in the field. [$1,504; amazon.com]

Lenovo IdeaPad N20P
This is a durable touchscreen Chromebook that has an unusual hinge for its display, enabling it to rotate 300 degrees. It's an unusual limitation, and it presents itself as somewhat unnecessary. The odd hinge aside, this machine comes with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of onboard storage. [$237; amazon.com]